March 13, 2020 - Updates

Friday, March 13, 2020 - Coronavirus Updates...

Phoebe Takes Additional Coronavirus Precautions  |  @ 3:42 p.m.

Albany, Ga. –Phoebe is taking additional steps to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of Friday afternoon, all Phoebe employees and all physicians are required to submit to temperature screenings when they arrive at work.  “We want to do all we can to protect our patients, contain this illness and minimize its spread throughout our communities. To ensure no Phoebe team members who may have coronavirus symptoms are at work, we are checking them daily before their shifts,” said Scott Steiner, Chief Executive Officer, Phoebe Putney Health System.

At all Phoebe hospitals, team members are being funneled through limited entrances where their temperatures are quickly taken. Per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, anyone with a fever will immediately be referred for appropriate medical screening. At other Phoebe facilities, all employees will submit to temperature screenings when they arrive in their departments before they have any contact with patients and visitors.

Phoebe also made the decision to close its employee gyms, Phoebe Healthworks in Albany and Americus. “While employee wellness remains a priority, it isn’t wise for our employees to be in close contact in shared workout facilities. We will encourage them to find safer ways to exercise for now,” Steiner said.

Older individuals, those with chronic conditions and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Phoebe urges all southwest Georgians to make sure their loved ones who fall into high-risk categories are following proper precautions and have the food, medicine and supplies they need without having to make regular trips into the public to get them.

Phoebe and Public Health Encourage Social Distancing  |  @ 2:33 p.m.

Public health officials are strongly encouraging southwest Georgians to avoid congregating in large groups as coronavirus continues to spread. “We are at a critical point in our efforts to minimize the impact of COVID-19, and we need to take strong steps immediately to prevent further spread of the virus,” said Charles Ruis, MD, Southwest Health District Health Director.

The number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases in Georgia is growing, and there is evidence some groups of those cases are connected. Gov. Brian Kemp announced yesterday several cases were connected to one church.  “We understand church services are an important aspect of life in all communities in southwest Georgia. Unfortunately, the close contact congregants have during those services puts them at risk of contracting coronavirus. We are urging churches in the area to consider temporarily cancelling worship services and large gatherings until we get through the worst of this situation,” Dr. Ruis said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging Americans to practice social distancing. According to the CDC website, that means everyone “should avoid crowded places where close contact may occur.”  People should also try to maintain a distance of approximately 6 feet from others.

“During this time of greatest concern, it makes sense for everyone to minimize their close contact with others as much as possible. That is critically important for people at high risk of severe complications from coronavirus. While we know most COVID-19 patients experience relatively mild symptoms, older individuals and those with chronic conditions are at greater risk of developing serious illness that could require hospitalization, and we need to do all we can to protect them from exposure,” said Steve Kitchen, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

Other coronavirus prevention tips include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.

Coronavirus developments are evolving quickly.  You can stay up to date on the latest information and guidelines by visiting the CDC website at

Coronavirus Testing Recommendations  |  @ 12:14 p.m.

Albany, Ga. – Following the first Georgia death due to COVID-19, Phoebe continues to follow CDC guidelines regarding coronavirus testing and treatment. Most COVID-19 patients have developed a fever and/or symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as cough and difficulty breathing, though symptoms are usually mild and do not require hospitalization. Older individuals, those with chronic conditions and those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of serious complications.

“Any patient who is in respiratory distress or is truly having a medical emergency should certainly call 911 or go to an emergency room right away, but people with mild coronavirus symptoms or no symptoms at all should not show up at an ER to request a coronavirus test,” said James Black, MD, Phoebe Medical Director of Emergency Services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend COVID-19 testing for all patients exhibiting symptoms. The CDC says priorities for testing may include:

  • Hospitalized patients who have signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 in order to inform decisions related to infection control.
  • Other symptomatic individuals who are at higher risk for poor outcomes.
  • Any persons who had close contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient, or who have a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of their symptom onset.

According to the CDC, “mildly ill patients should be encouraged to stay home and contact their healthcare provider by phone for guidance about clinical management. Patients who have severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, should seek care immediately. Older patients and individuals who have underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their physician early in the course of even mild illness.”

Current COVID-19 screening recommendations based on that CDC guidance include:

  • Older individuals and those with chronic conditions should be tested as soon as they develop symptoms.
  • Younger, generally healthy people should self-isolate and contact a clinician if mild symptoms develop.
  • Anyone in respiratory distress or having a true medical emergency should call 911 or go to an ER immediately.
  • People with mild or no symptoms should not show up at an ER to request a COVID-19 test.

Limited COVID-19 specimen collection kits are available at Phoebe hospitals, primary care clinics, urgent care clinics and the community care clinic. Testing must be ordered by a physician and is performed through the Georgia Department of Public Health Lab or a commercial lab. Generally, results are available as soon as 48 hours after processing.

It is recommended all patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms call ahead before visiting any healthcare facility.

Get updated coronavirus information at and

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